University campaign targets potential sex offenders

A hard-hitting sexual assault awareness campaign targeting potential offenders has been launched at Irish universities to encourage men to change their attitudes.

The Don’t Be That Guy initiative, which promotes the message that sex without consent is the same as sexual assault, features stark images of vulnerable women with the taglines “It’s not sex when she is wasted”, and “Just because she isn’t saying no doesn’t mean she is saying yes”.

The campaign is already running in TCD and NUI Galway. Last night, Mary Crilly, director of Cork’s Sexual Violence Centre, was at UCC to launch the campaign there.

“Young women are so vulnerable. Almost 80% are raped by someone they know,” she said. “This campaign calls on men to examine their own behaviour.

“I have talked to guys who said she ‘was asking for it’. However, I ask them to think that if there is a girl passed out drunk and it was their sister, would they want a guy taking advantage of her? These posters ask the same.”

Most sex assault awareness campaigns target potential victims by urging women to change their behaviour with suggestions such as not dressing in a certain way, not getting drunk, and walking home alone.

However, UCC students union’s gender equality officer, Sian Cowman, said research suggests that campaigns aimed at victims are not only ineffective, but also contributes to and increases self-blame in survivors.

Although hard-hitting, the posters are designed to be thought-provoking, rather than offensive.

“This campaign won’t change our deep-seated attitudes towards sexual assault overnight,” said Ms Cowman. “But it will make people think about the boundaries of sexual consent.”

The posters will be displayed around UCC’s campus and in the toilets of some of the university’s affiliated nightclubs.

The Don’t Be That Guy campaign was devised by a community collaboration in Edmonton, Canada in 2010. It spread internationally, and helped cut by 10% the reported sexual assaults in Vancouver.

Meanwhile, the Union of Students in Ireland is to survey students on their experience of sexual violence.

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